The Hidden Heroes of the Game #WhyIGolf

Bernie McGuire

As Women’s and Girls Golf Week continues we look the Volunteers and what a vital role they play in the game. Get involved in the conversation using #WhyIGolf and help us grow the game.

Rules Officials, Tournament Committees, Handicap Advisors, Course Raters, Board Directors, Team Captain’s and Managers, Junior Convenors and Selectors. Without the countless people giving back in their clubs, and the 200 Irish Ladies Golf Union (ILGU) Volunteers, Women’s and Girls’ Golf in Ireland would look very different.

Defined as the act of doing a community service on a voluntary basis and there is no doubt that across the country there are volunteers who are contributing to the development of the women and girls’ game from beginner to national level. Indeed, next month, a team of over 300 volunteers will enable the ILGU and Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) to host the World Amateur Team Championships at Carton House.

Rachael McDonnell, a student at University College Dublin (UCD), plays off a handicap of 2 and herself competes regularly in National, District and Intervarsity events. However this is not where her involvement in the sport ends. Rachel is a member of the ILGU East Leinster District Junior Development Committee (JDC) and is also part of the Junior Committee at her golf club, Elm Park – so why did she decide to give back to the game?

“There were so many people who inspired me growing up; the ladies who ran the ILGU Leinster coaching and were devoted to helping us; Irene Poynton, Marie Collins and Anna Usher for example. Then there were Elm Park members too who helped me improve and encouraged me all the time – all voluntarily. I wanted to take the opportunity to do something similar so I became part of the ILGU JDC and now get to watch young girls constantly improving and enjoying themselves – it’s very rewarding and has been a great experience for me.”

Rachael’s involvement with junior girls began when she was named Junior Captain at Elm Park – a role which unique in comparison to other clubs.

“Junior Captains at Elm Park play quite an active role in helping run the Junior Section,” she explained. “Alongside the Boy’s Junior Captain, I had a list of responsibilities which included, organising Junior competitions, organising Junior social events, updating the Junior section of the club website, attending Junior Parent Committee Meetings and overall being the main point of contact for Junior members both new and established.”

The 21-year-old who will begin her final year of Food Science in September, with the hope of then completing a Masters in Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics, is considering how she might begin working with players and other sportspeople in the future. Yet despite focusing on her studies, she finds the time to undertake activities of the JDC which involves running competitions year round for young girls across the district and generally making sure they have opportunities to meet new people and enjoy themselves.

“Some eventually go on to become Interprovincial and International Players but I enjoy being part of their journey in whatever way I can!

“When volunteering in golf, you realise how much work goes into running tournaments and championships – I have become so appreciative of the work of the ILGU and all the other Volunteers but as it is so rewarding, I am not surprised that there are so many who give back to the game.”

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